Due to the rising political unrest in our country, we see more now than ever before that several lives in the black community are at risk. It has ultimately come to the point that this is no longer a political issue; This is solely a human rights issue. You may be thinking to yourself, “What more can I do to support POC in my community during the BLM movement?” To reiterate, POC stands for “People of Color”, and BLM stands for “Black Lives Matter”, and it is important to educate not only ourselves, but one another, on the events surrounding the racial injustice of members of the black community. More recently, you may have heard the names George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmuad Arbery, Tony McDade, and all other people who have been oppressed throughout history, merely due to the color of their skin.
Everyone has differing opinions on what it means to “educate”; Some are posting on social media, some are protesting in the streets, some are donating silently, some are watching documentaries (I strongly recommend 13TH on Netflix), and some are having tough conversations with friends and family. Viola Davis, Academy-Award winning actress, philanthropist, and CEO of her own female, black-owned production company, says, “A revolution has many lanes—be kind to yourself and others who are traveling in the same direction. Just keep your foot on the gas.” One way to engage in and support the revolution is by funding the lives of African-Americans who may be experiencing the devastating financial effects of rioting and looting.
Ordering takeout or delivery from a restaurant only takes one minute of your life, yet, it changes the lives of so many. Here are a few of the many black-owned restaurants open in New York and New Jersey right now that deserve to be brought to the forefront. Pay attention to and click on the hyperlinks throughout this article, as they include resources that allow you to take further action in combating racism in our country. I will include a link with a complete list of restaurants at the end of this article, so be sure to keep reading.
I can go on and on about how many amazing things this restaurant has to offer: First of all, it’s a black-owned business, so you’re not only making a conscientious decision about where you spend your dollars, but you are also standing in solidarity with members of the black community that rely on our money to keep their business’s doors open and lights on. Dining here also opens the floor to a conversation about better eating habits, empowering yourself and others to make more heart-healthy dieting decisions.
Secondly, UVK has a longstanding reputation of donating meals to various organizations, including Support + Feed, that help people with limited access to food or grocery stores during the COVID-19 crisis. This includes frontline workers in hospitals, senior centers, and the homeless. Not to mention, they have MERCH!! T-shirts with catchy vegan slogans can be purchased directly from their website, so you can proudly walk the streets not only knowing what you put in your body, but showing your outward support of the black community as well.
You can never go wrong with a scoop of ice cream. So why not exercise your human rights while grabbing a cone? Sugar Hill offers seasonal menu options with distinct flavor profiles inspired by the area from which they originated: Harlem. If you’re craving something rich, you can go for a classic flavor, like “Sweet Socialism”, which is a decadent, rich sorbet often mistaken for ice cream due to its creamy, milky texture. To satisfy that sweet tooth, go for a lighter option, like “Pon De Replay”, which is inspired by queen Rihanna herself. It is a toasted coconut vegan ice cream infused with passionfruit and tamarind that makes for a tart, tangy party in your mouth.
There’s never a dull moment at Negril. Specializing in Caribbean cuisine, this hip and classy island-like environment will leave your palette and soul entertained. Nicki Minaj even says it’s “The most amazing food in New York”, so how can you possibly pass this up? Negril is conveniently located in the heart of Greenwich Village for takeout and delivery. They’ve also partnered with Grubhub, Postmates, and Uber Eats for even more accessible dining options. Right now, the restaurant is providing free meals to local hospitals and medicare centers as a thank you to our healthcare heroes in addition to offering them a 15% discount at their New Jersey location, Jerk’d Kitchen.
Also located in Harlem, this restaurant combines French and West African cuisine with a variety of unique house cocktails. Cousins Ejhadji Cisse and Cheikh Cisse are co-owners and Executive Chefs of the warm and welcoming establishment. They moved to the United States in 1995 from Dakar, Senegal, quickly entering the restaurant business. Since then they have worked for internationally renowned chefs at some of New York’s most high profile restaurants, serving an array of international cuisines.
The cousins have taken to social media to advocate on behalf of their Harlem community, as well as extend a helping hand to its members during these unsettling circumstances. One of their most recent Instagram posts is captioned, “We’ve been trying to be a beacon of light in our Harlem community through it all. By shining our light we hope to feed, fuel, and inspire others to shine the light on the injustices in this world, and healing those who need it. We are here, we understand, and we will always be a safe haven for our community to turn to.” Their commitment and focus on their community does not go unnoticed and their message of inclusivity resonates with people from all different walks of life.
Another Harlem-based establishment, BLVD Bistro offers modernized Soul food classics with cocktails and wine. Carlos Swepson, a New York chef with roots in Natchez, Mississippi, co-owns the restaurant with his sister, Joi. The New York Times says that some of their best menu items include wood-smoked chicken, crisp wild grouper with a cornmeal crust, and Southern potato salad with chopped hard-boiled eggs. The secret? Swepson uses tricks like stirring Louisiana cane syrup into salted butter for biscuits, smoking chicken over mesquite wood chips instead of grilling it with barbecue sauce, and dolloping tangy crème fraîche on blueberry pancakes instead of sweet whipped cream.
In light of the COVID-19 crisis, the bistro has been working closely with organizations such as Front Line Foods NYC and North Jersey Links to deliver meals to frontline healthcare workers and small businesses. As a coalition, they’ve contributed a significant amount to NYC Harlem Hospital Nephrology Unit. What can be better than knowing your dining dollars are going to not just one, but two good causes?
Founded in 2005 by Harlem resident Melba Wilson, Melba’s specializes in Southern classics such as jumbo shrimp, buffalo wings, braised short ribs, and so much more. Other than great food, however, Melba’s supports a variety of important causes, highlighted by their partnership with Team Unity to launch the Melba’s COVID-19 Employee Relief Fund. The goal of the fund is to raise a minimum of $250,000 to provide financial relief to the dozens of hourly workers impacted at Melba’s. 90% of your donation will directly aid the hourly salary of employees who have been affected financially by the COVID-19 regulations, and the remaining percentage will go to Team Unity Incorporated.
Melba herself has even spoken at a plethora of marches throughout New York City, sharing her perspective as a POC in the face of systematic racism and oppression. She took to social media, captioning one of her most recent Instagram posts, “If we stand for nothing, we will fall for anything. Thank you to ALL who stand in solidarity with us.” This video is definitely worth a watch, so please take a moment of your time to do so.
This family-run joint located in Asbury Park features homestyle Southern flare with vegan options and a Sunday buffet. The staff as a whole is super committed to spreading awareness on the issue of racial injustice ingrained in our society. Back in 2012, one staff member, Diron, guest-starred on the critically acclaimed Television Program, Save My Son with Dr. Steve Perry. The show follows educator and leader, Dr. Steve Perry, as he fights to reshape the lives of young, black men who are falling by the wayside in record numbers.
Janice Brooks, the owner and Executive Chef, learned to cook from her mother and grandmother. After discovering her purpose in life and earning her Associates Degree in Culinary Arts in 2006, the demand for her highly favored dishes was on the rise. Word spread throughout the community and Janice began catering for various church events, weddings, and birthday celebrations. Of course, family and friends were still fortunate to come to her home and dine “At The Table.”
Located in Cherry Hill, Trappixx offers a diversified Jamaican-themed menu from Tuesday-Sunday, noon to 8 P.M. (closed Mondays), with jerk chicken wings, curry chicken, and Escovitch fish. When you order ten times through their website, you get your 11th meal completely free. Locally owned and proved authentic, you’re sure to get the most out of your meal here.
This is not only a shop with delicious, gooey, moist cookies of all flavors, but a business startup initiated by one of the youngest members of the black community. Cory Nieves, also known as “Mr. Cory”, always dreamed of making the world better for everyone he knows. That passion, combined with a love of treats and an entrepreneurial spirit, led him to be the owner of Mr. Cory’s Cookies at just six-years-old. What started as a hot chocolate stand soon expanded to lemonade, and later, cookies, to reach a broader audience. From there, he and his mother started learning how to bake, testing all different recipes and techniques to create the perfect chocolate chip cookie.
Mr. Cory’s Cookies works with non-profits throughout New York and New Jersey, including (but not limited to) Bergen’s Promise in Rochelle Park and the Children’s Aid Society in New York City. As of late, they’ve particularly focused on COVID-19 relief. As soon as you enter their website, the first thing you see is a message stating, “For every order we sell, we will donate to The COVID-19 Relief Fund.”
Cory himself has taken to social media to share his views on racism, with the intent to educate others and encourage them to take action. Please take a minute to listen to his message, as the words and encouragement of a rising generation are what will ultimately spark change.
Bro-Ritos is the literal definition of “Meals On Wheels”. Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, the food truck has been traveling to different locations all throughout New Jersey, serving meals to families in need. Earlier this week, the “Bros” were spotted at Paterson Public School 21, giving away 150 free meals to individuals who do not have sufficient access to food in quarantine. In support of the Black Lives Matter movement, they have been posting to their Instagram story at protests and rallies in their local area.
Located in Jersey City, Martha’s is a cornerstone in the community and has been recognized for its outstanding Seafood cuisine, excellent service, and friendly staff, who have done nothing less than use their voices to speak out against racial injustice and discrimination. They took to Instagram earlier this week, sharing a post with the message, “As a minority-owned business, we are outraged and disturbed by the latest tragedy and by the fact that George Floyd joins a long and ever-growing list of Black Americans who have lost their lives because of the color of their skin. We stand with our [black] community, minorities, people of color, and anyone suffering social injustice.”
Though Martha’s is a fairly new business (started just one year ago in June 2019), they’ve already made a huge impact in their community, both in food and advocating for civil rights. With a breakfast menu featuring omelettes and an all-day menu featuring sandwiches and salads, Martha’s has something that will satisfy everyone’s palette.
Open now for delivery and takeout, Montclair Diner located in—you guessed it—Montclair, New Jersey, is not only a staple to the community, but a helping hand to those in this time of need. Heinz for Diners, a $1 million commitment in the form of $2,000 grants to help cover rent and operating costs for 500 qualifying, independently owned diners, selected Montclair Diner to receive funds when they need it most. The diner has, in turn, set up a GoFundMe to directly feed and support frontline workers in Black and Latino communities that are heavily impacted by COVID-19. They’ve surpassed their goal of $2,500, raising an outstanding total of $6,075. This just goes to show how a united community has the power to do so much more.
I hope this article gave you an alternative perspective on how you can support the Black Lives Matter movement during a time when racial injustice takes a front seat in our country’s agenda. For more local options, feel free to view this list created by @newforkcity on Instagram of black-owned restaurants across all five boroughs of NYC. For New Jersey residents, this is a more thorough Google Spreadsheet of black-owned restaurants in all areas of the state, created by @justin.time.to.dine. Even our very own @spoonuniversity created a list of black-owned businesses to dine at in 3 major cities in the U.S., including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. I now encourage you to take a stand and spend your dining dollars more wisely. Call up one (or more) of the restaurants mentioned, and don’t forget to give them a generous tip ;).